I was first introduced to yoga retreats (now in great abundance) by yogi and health guru Grace Van Berkum, who got me hooked on the retreat concept after two consecutive stints to Nicaragua. I enjoy the healthful itinerary peppered with exploration and adventure. Combine that with a jaw-dropping backdrop and “perfection” starts to sound like a suitable description for the holiday, so when she uttered the words “retreat in Peru” it was a no-brainer. My fast-paced big-city existence needed tempering — a reprieve to return to stillness and recalibrate — and a retreat in Peru’s Sacred Valley seemed like the perfect place to do just that. I was in.
After a scenic hour or so drive from Cusco I arrived at The Source. A small, impeccably groomed terra cotta-roofed estate nestled between mountains. As a city dweller grown accustomed to a symphony of sirens, jackhammers and car horns, the peaceful hum of nature that greeted me upon arrival set the tone for the week ahead. The grounds and surrounding views were even more picturesque than I had expected, a beauty that cannot be fully captured on camera despite my best efforts. The main lodge, reminiscent of an Aspen ski chalet with its roaring fireplaces, oversized leather couches, wall-to-wall books, and abundance of loose leaf teas, summoned me with its relaxing vibe. I became familiar with Peru’s array of climates and ever-changing conditions early on, transitioning from summer to fall attire in the span of a day. The hot water bottles supplied in each guestroom were a needed antidote against the night’s chill.
Committed to helping people cultivate personal transformation, growth and healing, retreats at The Source incorporate Shamanic practices and traditional Andean ceremonies including a sweat lodge called a “chulla chaka,” and the presentation of ceremonial offerings to spirits,a giving back of what we receive everyday in our lives, in what they call a “despacho” ceremony. (The contents of despachos vary depending on the intention, but can include things like cookies, candy and little trinkets and involve beer and wine.)
Daily yoga and meditations led by the resident (and self-proclaimed) “blissologist,” Julian DeVoe, an effervescent spirit junkie who hails from New Jersey, took place in the temple, the crown jewel of the property. This ceremonial space is where a lot of the mind work takes place, the veritable mission control of our peace-seeking journey. The elaborate structure incorporates elements of sacred geometry and consists of a thousand pounds of crystals distributed throughout the floor, walls and ceiling; strategic design elements that support the healing potential of the space. The views through the oversized skylight of the waterfall by day and the stars by night served as the perfect anchors to begin and end my yoga practice.
I was keen to get better acquainted with the Sacred Valley, the once fruitful homeland of the Incan Empire and explore what it had to offer. A short taxi ride from The Source is Pisac, a traditional Andean village that sits at the foot of Incan ruins and has become world renowned for its artisan market. Here, the charm factor is off the charts, from the little street-side restos to the friendly Peruvian vendors welcoming you into their booths — and then there’s the little baby goats in colourful knitted toques. Narrow walkways are lined with colourful textiles, scarves, trinkets and ceramic — everything on your souvenir list can be found here. The ruins lie a steep walk or short taxi ride above the village. Separated into four sections along a ridge, the ruins are set row upon row on stone terraces. A visit not only offers a glimpse into Incan civilization but panoramic views of the Andes.
It’s also possible to soak in the Sacred Valley’s scenic landscape on horseback. As I saddled up and started making my way through the tree-lined trails, passing by farmland, rustic homes and even right through a soccer match — always within view of the Andes — I couldn’t help but feel at peace. With the wind tickling the trees, the light rainfall glazing the leaves and the contact of my horse’s hooves against the pebbly trail, my mind was deafened to everything but the sounds of the Sacred Valley.
Returning to The Source and its people — a tight-knit collection of locals and expats from various parts of the world — after days spent exploring was always the perfect way by which to cap off the day. Retreats like these bring together an eclectic patchwork of people who share a common goal of seeking health and mindfulness. That, coupled with the otherworldly essence of The Source and Sacred Valley, sent me home with gratitude and a warm heart.